What is the GMAT Exam? Format, Costs and Scores

Many scholars interested in graduate Business education find out that GMAT exam is often one of the application criteria for their favourite programs. But what is GMAT, and why do so many schools see it as an important evaluation of their prospective students, particularly those applying to MBAs or related Business Masters?

Let’s find out!

What is GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is an examination — accessible both online and at official test centres — used to evaluate the skills of scholars putting in for a Business degree at the graduate level. The GMAT exam is a common admission condition for MBA programs and other Business-related Master’s degree programs.


GMAT is a computer adaptive test (CAT), which implies that some of the exam sections adjust their difficulty on the basis of your previous responses. In other words, if you respond correctly to the initial question(s), the next ones will be more difficult. If you respond wrongly, the next ones will be easier.

The major skills tested during the GMAT are:

  • English knowledge
  • Math skills
  • Analytical skills

GMAT exam format

The GMAT consists of 4 main sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning

These segments can be taken in 3 various orders; you’ll get all the details at the commencement of your exam when you can make a choice. There are also two non-compulsory 8-minute breaks you can take. In all, the GMAT exam takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to finish.

Now, let’s have a closer look at each GMAT section:

Analytical Writing Assessment

  • Time: 30 minutes

This section assesses how well you can think analytically and how you share your ideas in a way that’s easily comprehensible by others.

You will read an argument on a certain subject. Subsequently, you’ll have to write a critique or evaluation of that argument. Bear in mind the objective isn’t sharing your thoughts on the subject but instead articulating how well (or not) the argument was structured. You should make use of examples to back your ideas and reasons.

Integrated Reasoning

  • Time: 30 minutes

This section assesses how well you can analyse data and how well you can comprehend the information displayed in various formats (e.g. text, graphics, charts) and coming from various sources.

You will face 12 questions in total, which can be clustered into 4 categories on the basis of the skills they assess:

  • Multi-Source Reasoning: decide if data is relevant, highlight differences
  • Table Analysis: work with data (sort, analyse, filter)
  • Graphics Interpretation: find links or insights in a graphic
  • Two-Part Analysis: solve complex problems, analyse transactions and compromises

Quantitative Reasoning

  • Time: 62 minutes

This section assesses how well you can analyse data but also assesses at your ability to draw logical conclusions on the basis of the information given.

You will face 31 multiple-choice questions in total. These will assess your basic math, algebra and geometry knowledge and reasoning skills.

Verbal Reasoning

  • Time: 65 minutes

This section assesses your English reading and comprehension skills, and also your abilities to fix common mistakes in written materials.

You will face 36 multiple-choice questions in total. These will assess how well you can comprehend the primary and secondary ideas of texts, how well you comprehend what is implied, and if you can recognize weak or flawed arguments and also mistakes in English grammar and sentence structure.

Online GMAT exam

The GMAT examination can also be written online, from the convenience of your home. Up until now, this online version had a few restrictions:

  • You couldn’t choose the order of the exam sections
  • The optional breaks were not added
  • The Analytics Writing Assessment section was not added

But good news! From 20 May 2021, all these restrictions will be removed, and you’ll be able to go through the same GMAT experience as you would at a physical test centre.

How much does the GMAT exam cost?

The cost of the GMAT examination is dependent on the exam type (test-centre vs online) and the nation in which you’ll take the examination.

Here are some of the fees for the standard GMAT exam available at test centres globally:

  • GMAT in the US: 275 USD
  • GMAT in the UK: 225 GBP
  • GMAT in Australia: 250 USD
  • GMAT in Germany: 250 EUR
  • GMAT in Norway: 285 USD

Check out GMAT costs in other locations.

The online GMAT exam has a flat price of 250 USD. The only nations from which you cannot take the online exam are: Cuba, China, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan.

GMAT exam preparation

It is advised to start preparing for the GMAT test a minimum of 6 months in advance. Take each section one after the other and understand its format, criteria, and possible challenges. You should also refresh your basic Math skills and English knowledge.

Fortunately, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) that administers the GMAT exam also provides a lot of useful resources for future test takers:

Check out other tips and tricks and also practice suggestions from GMAC.

GMAT exam scores

The scores for the GMAT test span between 200 and 800, and they are usable for 5 years; this applies to both the standard and the online GMAT test.

You’ll obtain an unofficial score report instantly after your exam. This will inform you of the results for 3 out of 4 sections: Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal, and the overall scores.

You’ll have two minutes to choose if you accept these scores or if you cancel them and intend to retake the exam. If you don’t choose any option, scores are automatically CANCELED.

The reason for this unofficial score report is to discover if you’re close to the results needed for your Business school application. If the results are promising, accept them, and you’ll get the complete official report (with the missing Analytics Writing Assessment section) in up to three weeks (21 days) after taking the GMAT exam.

It’s good to know that you can:

  • cancel the scores in the initial 72 hours following the exam, even if you accept them at first
  • restore your scores after cancelling them at first for an extra fee of 50–60 USD; this can be done in the initial 4 years and 11 months after writing the GMAT exam

What is a good GMAT score?

To give you a overview, according to GMAC data, about 2/3 of test-takers score between 400 and 600. Some (MBA) professionals seem to agree that scores between 650–740 are good, and anything more than 740 is great.

But the reality is, a good GMAT score is a score that enables you to apply and be admitted by your favourite Business school. It’s that simple. So, before getting ready and enrolling for the GMAT exam, check out what’s the least score needed for your university application.

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